Chocolate Expo Sweetens the Deal

Caitlin Holbrook

The sweet smell of chocolate filled the O’Connor Campus Center (Coop) on the evening of Saturday, November 17. By 6:00 p.m., a line had formed outside the Coop TV room in anticipation of the First Annual Chocolate Expo.

Held by the Wellness Initiative in conjunction with the Office of Residential Life, the Social Norming Committee and the Center for Counseling and Psychological Services, the event was immensely popular, and the room remained packed until 8:00 p.m., when participants began to pack up.

Residential Education Coordinator and organizer of the Chocolate Expo John Breault explained that the members of the Wellness Initiative came up with the idea of a Chocolate Expo while trying to incorporate the month’s theme of friendship with alcohol awareness, since November is part of Alcohol Awareness Month. The Wellness Initiative aimed to create a fun event that would allow people to spend time with friends without the presence of alcohol.

“The idea was to hold an event where people could meet new people, socialize and have fun where the focus wouldn’t be on alcohol,” Breault said. “The idea of a chocolate expo just popped into my head and we ran with it.”

Those who attended the Expo picked up a piece of chocolate, a voting ballot and a survey as they entered. Attendees were given some more chocolate in exchange for filling out the survey, which asked for both their guesses to alcohol-related trivia. The answers to the trivia, along with a copious amount of Hershey’s kisses, were scattered around the room. One survey was later selected at random and awarded a grand prize.

The winners of the Wellness Initiative’s “What did the Raider say to his friend who had too much to drink” caption contest were also showcased at the entrance of the Expo. Junior Elsie Denton won the prize for best coloring of the cartoon, and senior Mary Billmire took home the prize for the best captions.

Meanwhile, beyond the entrance to the room lay a chocolate-lover’s paradise. Chocolate truffles, chocolate fudge, chocolate cheesecake lollipops and “fudgy mint chocolate cheesecake brownie bars” were just a few of the sweet concoctions participants whipped up. There was even chocolate milk, hot chocolate and two chocolate fountains placed strategically next to strawberries, pretzels and marshmallows.

Senior Theodora Guliadis from the Konosioni team explained the challenges involved in making the treats.

“This took until 4:00 a.m.,” Guliadis said of their “scrumptious holiday truffles.” “We started at 9:00 p.m. and they froze overnight. It was really hard to get them to freeze.”

Nine different groups of students participated in the Expo, and each prepared 200 sample-sized desserts containing chocolate. The groups were told the winner would receive a $300 reward, and students from each class participated. Though many participants signed up with friends just to have a good time, some groups represented specific clubs or causes.

The Konosioni Honor Society, the Sisters of the Round Table and a group from the Loj were all present among the contestants. Senior Kelly Gartside of the group from the Loj explained that they made a vegan chocolate cake and bought certified Fair Trade and organic chocolate in order to try to raise awareness about social and environmental alternatives to exploitative chocolate companies.

“We just wanted to come here to raise awareness about other options about chocolate and just raise awareness about fair trade in general,” Gartside said.

On the whole, Breault and other members of the Wellness Initiative were extremely pleased with the turnout.

“I think it was a great success,” Breault said. “There was a steady amount of people throughout the whole thing. Some people even brought their Sidekicks as well.”